Unfolding famine spreads to six regions in southern Somalia Double crisis of malnutrition and diseases facing millions of children


Unfolding famine spreads to six regions in southern Somalia Double crisis of malnutrition and diseases facing millions of children

On 16 August, Amina Ali carries her baby in Bouldougo, a slum area on the outskirts of Djibouti City, the capital. Ms. Ali, a widowed mother of four, is a Somali refugee whose family had been living in Ethiopia. After the last of her cattle died three months ago, she walked for eight days to reach Bouldougo. The area is missing even the most basic services. In Somali, Bouldougo means knocked out; some 400 families live in the area, including Somali refugees arriving from Somalia and Ethiopia. Ms. Ali now sells wood to support her family. I prefer to be here, she said. After my cattle in Ethiopia died, I have nothing to go back to. On 18 August 2011, the crisis in the Horn of Africa affecting primarily Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Djibouti continues, with a worsening drought, rising food prices and ongoing conflict in Somalia. Some 12.4 million people require assistance due to the regions worst drought in 60 years. Djibouti is proportionally the second most affected country in the region; approximately 20 per cent of the population more than 165,000 people require assistance, including 80,000 living in drought-affected areas. The country is one of the most water-scarce in the world, with chronic water shortages, but the situation has worsened this year. Malnutrition has been at emergency levels since 2002, but has peaked in recent months; most recent estimates indicate one fifth of children are suffering from moderate or acute malnutrition, one third are underweight, and nearly half are stunted. Additionally, over 17,000 refugees most of them from Somalia have arrived in the Djiboutis Ali-Addeh camp, which normally has a capacity of 7,000. UNICEF is supplying water and therapeutic food in the camp, and is assisting the Government of Djibouti with aid logistics. Together with Governments, UN, NGO and community partners, UNICEF is also supporting a range of interventions and essential services throughout the region. A joint United Nations appeal for humanitarian assistance for the region requires US$2.4 billion; there remains a shortfall of US$1.1 billion.

HONG KONG, 5 September 2011 Famine has been confirmed in one more area in southern Somalia, totalling six famine regions: Lower Shabelle region, parts of Bakool and Middle Shabelle, Afgoye IDP settlement, Mogadishu IDP community, and Bay region. Without adequate response, 750,000 people are at imminent risk of dying in the coming months and famine is expected to spread further by end of 2011.

The newly-declared famine region of Bay has the global acute malnutrition rate at 58%, nearly four times the WHO emergency threshold of 15%, meanwhile, one in five children are severely malnourished at exceptional high risk of death.

This is no longer simply a food crisis in southern Somalia, this is a crisis for child survival. Malnutrition is not the only culprit in child’s death, other killer disease such as measles, malaria, diarrhea and pneumonia, are also a menace to these vulnerable children.Across the regions, there are 1.5 million children in need of immediate humanitarian assistance. Without urgent help, these children could succumb to malnutrition and/or diseases in a matter of few weeks; once treated, these children can recover soon.

UNICEF is thus working against the clock, ramping up its life-saving interventions, with the blanket supplementary feeding as the main focus. Aiming at reaching 200,000 families per month for the next six months, this feeding programme will cover the gap of lacking food aid.

Apart from nutrition, UNICEF provides immunisation service and safe water to affected children and their families, to prevent the outbreak of disease. We will conduct scale-up measles campaign targeting 2 million children, expand access to safe water of children and their families at camps, transit points and in the regions through Outpatient Therapeutic Programme and by drilling boreholes and water trucking.

UNICEF estimates an overall funded amount of HK$2.8 billion (US$363.7 million) for the Horn of Africa. As of 6 September, 74 per cent of the total amount has been attained. Heartfelt thanks to both government, corporate and private sector contributions.